What did you learn today?

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” – Malcolm Forbes

Many years ago I ran into a remarkable man, Dr. Leo Buscalia. In my view, this is one of the greatest life-effectiveness teachers of all time and a brilliant humanitarian (and boy does he sweat a lot).  I listened to him like a young child hearing their favourite bedtime story, with utter rapt enthralment and engaged on all levels; visually, emotionally, sensory, auditorally, spiritually.

If you have never heard one of Dr. Buscalia’s talks to parents and adults, you should really check them out.  Here’s a link to one of his presentations on YouTube.

I have tried to take to heart many of Dr. Buscalia’s messages as I’ve gone about my life as a father, a husband, a teacher, a businessman, a consultant, a friend.  But the lesson that has had the most impact on me was a story he tells about his father and their dinner time conversations when he was a young boy.

Basically, every evening at the dinner table his father would ask the children the same question: “What did you learn today?”  And each in turn had to talk about something new they learned that day, either at school or somewhere else.  And “nothing” was not an acceptable answer.  If one of his children tried to avoid the evening ritual by not being able to think of anything, they were sent away from the table, without supper.  Leo, being a quick study and liking his food, realised that anything new would work, so often spent the few minutes before dinner time quickly scanning the dictionary for a new word, memorizing the definition, then spouting eloquently on his new-found knowledge.

Funny thing is, as Leo Buscalia tells it, he thought he was getting away with something, the easy way out, when in fact, as an adult he finally realised that he had learned a valuable skill and a life-long lesson about developing good learning habits and being open-minded to new things.

What do you talk about at the dinner table with your family?  What are the family dinner table rituals that will someday turn out inquisitive, open-minded, intellectually curious, mature young adults?  I suggest you add; “What did you learn today?” to your family rituals.

You just might learn something!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
This entry was posted in Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, parenting, Personal Development, Psychology, Self-improvement and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What did you learn today?

  1. Hi John. Do you recommend any of his books?


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